Campaigners have called on the government to go further than its own recommendations – and have demanded a 40% reduction of sugar in food and drink by 2020. 

Action on Sugar also renewed its call for a ban on all advertising and promotion of unhealthy foods and drinks to children and adolescents. It has also appealed for 20% duty to be introduced on sugary drinks, similar to a move seen in Mexico.

The organisation said it had given Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary State for Health, a seven-point plan to tackle childhood obesity, similar to a plan which had reduced salt, but it felt this had been ignored by the government.

Action on Sugar added that its plan needed to be run by a strong independent nutrition agency with statutory powers, possibly Public Health England. And it blasted the Responsibility Deal, saying it had not worked.

Professor Graham MacGregor, chairman of Action on Sugar, said: “These actions will prevent obesity and type 2 diabetes and will ensure the UK food industry leads the world as it has been doing for salt reduction.

“The food and drink industry does not want to cause any more harm to its customers; they are waiting to be told what to do and it is essential that they are given a level-playing field so that they are all working towards the same goal. This policy must therefore be enforced by a strong independent agency.”

Katharine Jenner, campaign director of Action on Sugar, added: “These recommendations are all well and good in theory, but our current sugar intakes are so high because the food industry adds large amounts of completely unnecessary sugar to our everyday foods, which all adds up.

“By reading the labels and switching to the lowest sugar options available, the new recommendations are difficult but can be achieved for both adults and children.”